Super Bowl 52 champions, the Philadelphia Eagles, begin their title defense week 1 of the regular season, Le’Veon Bell remains noncommittal to his $14.5 million franchise tag and Patrick Mahomes embarks on his first full season as a starter.
Unlike the preseason takeaways series, we’ll be going more in-depth for these weekly articles, but obviously, you’re starting your studs every week, for the most part, except bye weeks. Starting with week 1, let’s get to things you should watch for fantasy football.
1: oo pm games
Buffalo Bills at Baltimore Ravens
Fresh off their first playoff appearance in almost 20 years, Bills return a roster highlighted with a new offensive coordinator, a gutted offensive line, a year older Lesean Mccoy and Mr. Five Interceptions, Nathan Peterman, as the starting quarterback.
Mccoy makes the back-end of my top-12 RB rankings because of volume, but in a 12-team league, no other Bills skill position player should be in a starting lineup week 1.
— Buffalo Bills (@buffalobills) September 5, 2018
I’d much rather be wrong about this offense week 1, then adjust moving forward, then to advocate starting Kelvin Benjamin (WR43) and Charles Clay with Peterman at the helm. Some things volume can’t compensate for. However, let’s hold out hope Brian Daboll can have a Chip Kelly like effect on the players surrounding Mccoy and just watch.
It’s a tough match up for Joe Flacco, but one has to wonder if he comes out lighting it up with a rookie quarterback breathing down his neck (a la Alex Smith?). That’s not enough for Flacco to crack my QB rankings week 1 though.
— Luke Jones (@BaltimoreLuke) September 6, 2018
With the tough matchup for Flacco, Crabtree, who should command targets as the Ravens’ top WR, is only a flex play this week (WR27). Leave John Brown on the bench.
Moving on, Alex Collins checks in as my RB18. For as good as the Bills defense is, their run defense isn’t as strong as other parts of the defense. Watch to see if Collins can score, but he should be able to total around 100 total yards.
Cincinnati Bengals at Indianapolis Colts
If you’re steaming quarterback and tight end you could do worse than an Andy Dalton (QB19) and Tyler Eifert stack week 1. It helps he looked great during the preseason. In his first full season as OC for the Bengals, Bill Lazor’s going to help the Bengals shock a lot of teams around the NFL.
Bill Lazor helped to completely flip the Andy Dalton common/uncommon split in 2017 with new designs and a bunch of RPOs. pic.twitter.com/6v270yz9BR
— Goodberry (@JoeGoodberry) September 3, 2018
In addition, let’s watch the 2018 Joe Mixon (RB13) breakout happen before our eyes with a juicy match up against the Colts. And obviously, you’re starting A.J. Green (WR3). John Ross (WR36) is a flex play.
Simply, if you drafted Andrew Luck (QB10) you’re starting him week 1. Same goes for T.Y. Hilton (WR10). Watch to see how many two tight end sets (21 personnel) the Colts use, with new HC Frank Reich coming over from Philadelphia.
Either Eric Ebron (TE11) and Jack Doyle (TE12) will be productive, low-end TE1s or a second wide receiver will emerge. It’s all based on usage of the Colts’ personnel packages. And if you went zero RB during your draft, with Marlon Mack not likely to play, Jordan Wilkins (RB34) deserves flex consideration.
Know a lot of people were excited about Eric Ebron's 5-54-1 line on Saturday. Note Jack Doyle only played three snaps — haven't seen an injury on him, perhaps was just rested.
— Adam Levitan (@adamlevitan) August 27, 2018
Houston Texans at New England Patriots
Watch to see if Deshaun Watson (QB11) can elevate Lamar Miller’s (RB28) play, who was an RB1 in which weeks that Watson was the starter. My money’s not on it, so if you have an IR spot D’Onta Foreman (PUP) could end up being the Texans starting RB by mid-season.
You’re starting Deandre Hopkins (WR6), while tempering expectations for Watson. Don’t expect Bill Belichick to let Watson come into his stadium, throwing for more than 300 yards and multiple touchdowns two years in a row. Defensive-minded Belichick wants to make a statement. For that reason, leave Will Fuller on the bench.
Watch what RBs play the most snaps week 1 for the Patriots. While the RB with the most snaps might not have the most fantasy points, in due time, that RB will want to be the one to own. By doing this last season, I was able to see White’s snaps decrease, while Dion Lewis’ increased. Lewis was picked up off waivers immediately.
Rex Burkhead (RB24) and James White (RB30) should see the most snaps, but monitor Jeremy Hill’s usage. Pick him up before kickoff if you have the roster spot, in case he pops.
In addition, behind Rob Gronkowski (TE1) and Chris Hogan (WR15), Phillip Dorsett, who played a lot of snaps during the Patriots week 3 preseason game and was targeted three times on third down by Tom Brady, is worth a roster spot. Watch how many snaps he plays, opposed to other WRs. Dorsett has the feeling of being that first big-time waiver wire add.
Don't need to chart plays to know Chris Hogan & Phillip Dorsett headed for every-down roles. Can also project lots of 12 packages as well as RB targets early in year: https://t.co/494Nt0n4FN
— Adam Levitan (@adamlevitan) August 27, 2018
Jacksonville Jaguars at New York Giants
Bet you didn’t know Blake Bortles has been a top 13 fantasy quarterback the last three seasons. For that reason, the Jaguars’ receiving corps is a must-watch week 1. Someone’s going to be productive. Keelan Cole and Dede Westbrook fanatics are evenly split, after the Marquise Lee injury.
Keelan Cole was fantasy's No. 1 PPR receiver over the last five weeks of 2017 — including the time when Marqise Lee was out.
— PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF_Fantasy) September 6, 2018
It’s a toss-up, that’s why I’d rather watch it play out than insert either into my starting lineup. Cole (WR44) and Westbrook (unranked) could both be productive. Let’s watch and see. If you’re streaming tight ends, Austin Seferian-Jenkins (TE19) might not get much yardage but is a strong candidate to score, based on the Giants’ track record.
Eli Manning’s season-long outlook is promising, but don’t start him against the Jaguars stout defense. Leave Sterling Shephard on the bench, too, and consider Ricky Seals-Jones over Evan Engram (TE17) for week 1.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns
Road Ben Roethlisberger (QB15) without Le’Veon Bell not likely to play means welcome to bench city. Watch to see how effective James Connor (RB26) can be in the absence of Bell. Connor’s auditioning for the feature back role for next season for as many games as Bell is out.
Ben Roethlisberger is consistently "pretty good". His 3 yr numbers below show around 67% each year. However, check out the Home/Away splits (89% Home vs 45% Away). Did someone say "streaming QB option"? Yep! Want more Consistency profiles? Go here: https://t.co/9Tk6Eclb3l pic.twitter.com/ifKDG9HDHS
— Bob Lung (@bob_lung) June 30, 2018
Call me crazy. The Browns win this football game. Watch how many snaps Josh Gordon (WR20) plays, and what his role is. He could easily overtake Jarvis Landry (WR11) as the focal point of the offense or play second fiddle. For the record, playing second fiddle isn’t a bad thing in Todd Haley’s offense.
Tyrod Taylor (QB18) and David Njoku (TE16) aren’t a bad quarterback/tight end streaming stack either.
— PatMcManamon (@PatMcManamon) September 6, 2018
San Francisco 49ers at Minnesota Vikings
Watch to see who can elevate themselves to being the bell cow, or if Alfred Morris (RB27) and Matt Breida (RB47) end up in a committee. For the passing game, I’d watch how George Kittle (unranked) and Pierre Garcon (WR40) perform week 1 before inserting them into your starting lineup. Goodwin (WR28) is a flex play in a tough matchup.
— Evan Silva (@evansilva) September 1, 2018
You’re starting all of the following: Kirk Cousins, Dalvin Cook, Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen, and Kyle Rudolph. But from a real life football perspective, watch and see how this offense operates. Feels like last season was lightning in a bottle (Minnesota Miracle) that can’t be caught twice.
In addition, Cousins produced a top 30 fantasy WR once the last three seasons (Pierre Garcon, 2016). Someone’s going to bust.
Is it possible to honestly expect Thielen and Diggs to finish as top 15 WRs, Dalvin Cook to finish as a top 12 RB, and Rudolph to finish as a top 10 TE? Kirk Cousins would be a top 3 QB and the offense would be historic.
— Jeff Johnson (@JeffJohnsonFI) August 5, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints
Watch how Mike Evans’ (WR17) value tanks without Jameis Winston. It’s hard to trust the likes of Peyton Barber (RB22) and Chris Godwin (WR48) against a stout defense such as the Saints, with Ryan Fitzpatrick behind center.
On the other side of the field, watch for your viewing pleasure Drew Brees (QB3) and friends light up the Buccaneers. Expect this contest to be a blow out by halftime. Ben Watson’s a top-10 fantasy TE week 1, and if you’re struggling for a flex look no further than the duo of Cameron Meredith (WR37) and Ted Ginn, who could both end up scoring.
And if you went zero RB in your draft, Mike Gillislee (RB42) should see tons of work in the second half of this contest running out the clock.
Mike Gillislee is going to be getting some real work early in the season. https://t.co/L0eb1GzG7r
— Thomas Goldkamp (@ThomasGoldkamp) September 5, 2018
Tennessee Titans at Miami Dolphins
Watch how the Titans utilize Derrick Henry (RB31) and Dion Lewis (RB15). At least in PPR formats, Lewis has more value, as Henry hasn’t eclipsed 15 receptions in a season. Rishard Matthews (WR33) missed most of training camp and didn’t play in a preseason game, but he was recently activated from the PUP list. Matthews led the team in targets last season.
ICYMI: Dion Lewis & Derrick Henry at Titans practice yesterday. They both play running back. pic.twitter.com/OsOtR1egrN
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) July 31, 2018
Watch to see if he or Corey Davis (WR35) becomes the focal point of the passing attack. Both WRs are flex plays. And, Mariota is two seasons removed from a top-15 finish at his position, so watch to see if a new offense revitalizes the 24-year-old three-year vet.
Not buying the Gore listed as a co-starter talk, and chalking it up to coach speak. Kenyan Drake (RB19) should be unleashed week 1, leaving fantasy owners who didn’t draft him dumbfounded.
It’s a tough matchup for Kenny Stills (WR26) week 1, but he’s still worth a flex play. Watch how things play out behind him, with Danny Amendola (WR47) having an inside track to playing slot. More targets should be up for grabs with the Dolphins starting tight end suffering a season-ending injury days before week 1.
A few days before the opener, the #Dolphins lost their starting tight end. They just put MarQueis Gray on Injured Reserve and signed FA TE Gavin Escobar. Source said Gray tore his Achilles in yesterday’s practice. Was poised for a big season.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) September 6, 2018
Kansas City Chiefs at Los Angeles Chargers
It’s not a question to me, but watch the usage of Sammy Watkins week 1. All indications are he’s simply a decoy.
Sammy Watkins makes impression on the first day of Kansas City Chiefs training camp, impresses Mahomes. https://t.co/R7VBV11rn3
— AP NFL (@AP_NFL) July 27, 2018
“Coach Andy Reid also praised the willingness of Watkins to push himself during practice, whether it’s running out routes where he’s a decoy or putting in extra reps.”
“Kelce, who is used too frequently facing double teams and bracket coverage, sees the addition of Watkins creating opportunities for everyone across the offense.”
And for the chargers, watch how many snaps and targets Austin Ekeler has (They want him to fill the Danny Woodhead role). In addition, watch to see if the signing of Antonio Gates (TE14) eats into Mike Williams’ (WR38) target share.
Dallas Cowboys at Carolina Panthers
In what seems like an offseason of turmoil for America’s team, watch how the offensive line, receiving corps and tight ends play week 1. Michael Gallup (WR45) displayed crispy chemistry with Dak Prescott during the preseason, so watch to see if that carries over into week 1.
First of many?
— SportsDay Cowboys (@dmn_cowboys) August 10, 2018
In addition, watch how the Cowboys offensive line operates with Travis Frederick not likely to play. As for the tight ends, watch, wait and see.
We saw it in the preseason, but week 1 is time for Christian McCaffrey to prove that when the games count he can be the workhorse, that can run fluidly in between the tackles.
— ThePanthersWire (@ThePanthersWire) September 6, 2018
Other than McCaffrey, watch how new OC Norv Turner and Cam Newton (QB7) decide to distribute targets. 33-year-old Greg Olsen (TE2) annually commanded 120 targets the three seasons before last. Now with Devin Funchess (WR24) replacing Kelvin Benjamin as the top wideout and rookie D.J. Moore (unranked) in the mix, things could get crowded.
That said, you’re starting all but Moore.
Seattle Seahawks at Denver Broncos
The top fantasy quarterback a year ago, Russell Wilson (QB14) has a bad matchup week 1, even with a retooled Broncos defense. If Dak Prescott, Phillip Rivers, Alex Smith or Jared Goff is on the waiver wire, plug and play them.
Watch who commands targets for the Seahawks behind de facto no. 1 WR Doug Baldwin, who’ll be nursing a sore knee all season. I like the season-long outlook of Tyler Lockett and Brandon Marshall (revenge game?), but both should be on your bench as we learn how Seattle’s offense will operate.
For those heralding that WR Brandon Marshall made the #Seahawks, y'all need to read @thenewstribune more(!) Been telling you all month that was a given–and that he may start the opener in Denver, too. Russell Wilson has spent a LOT of extra time throwing back-shoulders to him
— Gregg Bell (@gbellseattle) September 2, 2018
Chris Carson (RB29) is a flex play (maybe he scores, with an improved offensive line).
Fresh off scoring in three straight preseason games, Royce Freeman (RB16) was crowned the starting RB for Denver. Watch how OC Bill Musgrave ushers Case Keenum into Denver’s offense, but all indications are they want Keenum to be a “game manager”. That means Royce could be in for a big game.
— Kyle Fredrickson (@kylefredrickson) September 6, 2018
Demaryius Thomas (WR13) and Emmanuel Sanders (31) will be playing with their best quarterback since Peyton Manning. Watch to see if they physically have the tools to get back to thousand yard receivers.
Washington Redskins at Arizona Cardinals
Alex Smith (QB8) and Arian Peterson (RB21) have a chance to be fantasy stables in Washington. Peterson looked good in the preseason, while Smith takes over an offense that produced a top-10 fantasy QB the last three seasons.
FAN: @AdrianPeterson is too old!
— DC Sports Experience (@SportsTalkDC) August 29, 2018
Jordan Reed (TE4) and Jamison Crowder (WR30) have the chance to be beneficiaries of Smith’s intermediate passing preference if they can stay healthy. However, Paul Richardson (unranked) could turn into Smith’s Tyreek Hill in Washington based on skill set. Watch week 1 and scout for yourself.
Obviously, you’re starting David Johnson (RB1) and Larry Fitzgerald (WR9) week 1. Watch and see how the targets are allocated behind those two though. Targets might be so spread out that there isn’t a viable third fantasy option in the passing game.
However, if you’re streaming tight ends, the next best-receiving target may be Ricky Seals-Jones (TE15). But beware, the Cardinals’ offensive line ranks in the bottom third of the league.
Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers
Nothing in the preseason suggests the Bears offense will be as prolific as analysts around the league suggest. Week 1 will say a lot about the direction of the Bears. Until then, leave Mitch Trubisky on the bench. Trey Burton (TE6) was the only skill position player to do something during the preseason.
4 targets, 4 receptions and 1 TD in about one quarter of work for Trey Burton. Another reception called back. Targeted early AND often.pic.twitter.com/ZFt1hQLYy1
— FantasyPros (@FantasyPros) August 19, 2018
Jordan Howard and Allen Robinson are an RB2 and WR2, respectively, week 1 though.
Jamaal Williams (RB23) is in for a big year, according to HC Mike McCarthy. Still, Aaron Jones will be back week 3. However, weeks 8-17 last season Williams was RB10. Also, watch to see if Jimmy Graham (TE5) has anything left in the tank, as without the touchdowns last season his yardage numbers were pedestrian.
McCarthy’s declaration Jamaal Williams is poised for a “big year” is a giant leap of faith. Opportunity there first two games but both are difficult matchups (Chi, Min). JW was pedestrian as a runner last year averaging 2.3 YAC/Att. Forced few MTs. Buyer beware. Jones > JW
— Brad Evans (@YahooNoise) August 28, 2018
And, Randall Cobb (WR34) is a flex play, but Geronimo Allison (unranked) is on the heels of Cobb. A slow start by Cobb early in the season could open up an opportunity for Allison. Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams are clear must-starts. A retooled Packers defense playing at home during prime time is a sneaky streamer defense week 1, too.
New York Jets at Detroit Lions
Week 1 for the Jets won’t be a fun game to watch for their fans, but for fantasy purposes, we want to see if Isaiah Crowell (RB38) or Bilal Powell (unranked) can cement themselves as the superior back.
In addition, with Jermaine Kearse not likely to play, we want to see if Quincy Enunwa and Tyrelle Pryor can step up and earn targets alongside Robby Anderson (WR25) week 1.
Matthew Stafford (QB7) and Golden Tate (WR23) are easily in your lineup week 1, but fantasy owners will watch how Detroit’s backfield plays out. LeGarrette Blount (RB35) and Kerryon Johnson (RB44) will duke it out in prime time to establish which one will be the primary back moving forward.
— NFL (@NFL) August 12, 2018
Theo Riddick (unranked) will be the third-down back.
Los Angeles Rams at Oakland Raiders
Year two of Jared Goff (QB12) as the starter should start fast week 1 against the Raiders. Todd Gurley (RB8) should confirm to fantasy owners why he was a top three pick during drafts.
Watch how Brandin Cooks (WR22) is intermingled in the offense. On the season, he needs around 100 targets to be top 15 at his position. If Cooks is treated as the top receiving target, it’ll be interesting to watch how targets are allocated between Cooper Kupp (WR32) and Robert Woods (unranked).
Jared Goff being good enough to sustain three fantasy-relevant receivers is what to watch for week 1.
The saying goes the best for last, but sometimes the last is last place. Fresh off trading their franchise defensive playmaker, releasing a wide receiver they traded a third-round pick for and a disappointing preseason, Jon Gruden returns to the sidelines week 1 to coach the Oakland Raiders.
Watch this entire team, offense, and defense, to get a feel of how they’ll do. There are too many unknowns to predict.
Based on sheer volume, Marshawn Lynch (RB20) and Amari Cooper (WR21) are a decent RB2 and WR2, respectively.
Raiders TE Jared Cook was born in 1987. Jon Gruden is showing team football film that is older, he said. “He’s bringing out film from like 1976 when you ain’t even think they had film. Grainy film where you can barely see the players.” Added some of plays, scheme originate there.
— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) July 31, 2018
You can check out my week 1 rankings here.